Sports in Bulgaria

Football is by far the most popular sport in the country. Many Bulgarian fans follow closely the top Bulgarian league, the Bulgarian "A" Professional Football Group, as well as the leagues of other European countries, such as those of Spain, England, Italy and Germany. The greatest success of the Bulgaria national football team was a fourth place finish at the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the United States. Certainly, the best known Bulgarian footballer is Hristo Stoichkov. He is widely regarded as one of the world's finest football players in the world , at the peak of his career between 1992 and 1995, while playing for FC Barcelona winning the Ballon d'Or in 1994. Additionally, he was named in the FIFA 100 ranking. Georgi Asparuhov-Gundi (1943-1971), was himself extremely popular at home and abroad having had offers from clubs in Italy and Portugal. He died tragically in a car accident at the peak of his career. He was awarded Bulgarian football player ?1 for the twentieth century. PFC CSKA Sofia (champion of Bulgaria 30 times) and PFC Levski Sofia (25 times champion of Bulgaria and 26 times holder of the National Cup as of 2007) are the most successful Bulgarian football clubs. Other popular clubs include PFC Lokomotiv Sofia, PFC Litex Lovech, PFC Cherno More Varna, PFC Lokomotiv Plovdiv and PFC Botev Plovdiv (the oldest club in Bulgaria,est. 1912). PFC Levski Sofia is the first Bulgarian team to have participated in the modern UEFA Champions League (after 1989) having achieved this by qualifying for the 2006/2007 competition.

Aside from football, Bulgaria boasts great achievements in a great variety of other sports. Maria Gigova and Maria Petrova each have a record of three world titles in rhythmic gymnastics. Some other famous gymnasts include Simona Peycheva, Neshka Robeva (a highly successful coach as well) and Yordan Yovtchev. Bulgarians are also dominant in weightlifting, with around 1,000 gold medals in different competitions, and wrestling; Stefan Botev, Nickolai Peshalov, Demir Demirev and Yoto Yotov are among the most distinguished weightlifters and Serafim Barzakov, Armen Nazarian and Sergey Moreyko are world-class wrestlers.

Bulgarians also take great pride in the country's achievements in athletics. Stefka Kostadinova, who still holds the women's high jump world record, jumped 209 centimetres at the 1987 World Championships in Athletics in Rome to clinch the coveted title. Presently, Bulgaria is proud of its sprinters, namely Ivet Lalova and Tezdzhan Naimova.

Volleyball recently marked a big resurgence. The Bulgarian national volleyball team is one of the strongest teams in Europe, currently ranked fifth in the FIVB ranklist. At the 2006 Volleyball World Championship, they won the bronze medal. Chess is also very popular. One of the top chess-masters in the world, Veselin Topalov, is Bulgarian. At the end of 2005, both men's and women's world chess champions were Bulgarian as well as the junior world champion.

At the 1998 Winter Olympics, Ekaterina Dafovska won the Olympic title from 15 km competition in biathlon and Irina Nikulchina took a bronze medal at the same Olympic Games. Another pride for the Bulgarian nation in winter sports is Evgenia Radanova, who won bronze and silver medals in the following two Olympic Games. Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski are another example of Bulgarian champions on the ice — this time speaking of ice dancing and figure skating. The couple is the reigning world champions, holding the title for both 2006 and 2007. The couple also won the ISU Grand Prix Final in St. Petersburg in December 2006.

Bulgaria's state agency for Youth and Sport is the governing body for sport in Bulgaria. The current minister in charge of it is Vesela Lecheva. As of November 11, 2005, Stefka Kostadinova is the President of the Bulgarian Olympic Committee.

The Vasil Levski National Stadium with PFC Levski Sofia hosting Chelsea F.C. in a Champions League Group A match.